The Baton Rouge civil service board agreed on Friday to again delay hearing former city police officer Blane Salamoni's appeal of his dismissal for his role in the 2016 fatal shooting of Alton Sterling.
In a special meeting on Friday morning — a week before the appeal hearing was scheduled — the municipal fire and police civil service board pushed back Salamoni's hearing for the second time. He was fired in March.
After he filed his appeal this spring, the board scheduled a hearing in the case for October, but later moved it back to Dec. 20 and 21.
While attorneys for the city police department and Salamoni said they are prepared for the hearing, they also expected to each need at least a full day to present their case. That left open the possibility that the hearing might spill over to a third day and fall on Christmas Eve.
A new hearing date hasn't been set yet, but apparently may not come until after April, which will be more than a year after Salamoni was fired and almost three years after Sterling's death.
The civil service board, police department and attorneys on the case considered weeks through April but could not settle on a date. They hope to chose a date next week at the civil service board's regularly scheduled meeting.
But as other dates were considered later and later into 2019, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul asked the board and the attorneys to try to find a time as early as possible, hopefully in January or February. He asked that they consider meeting on a Saturday, if necessary.
“I think the community wants closure, I think my officers want closure," Paul said. "The sooner we can have this and move on… the sooner (we have) healing."
In July 2016, Salamoni and officer Howie Lake II attempted to arrest Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, outside a convenience store on North Foster Drive after a complaint came in about a man selling CDs threatening someone with a gun.
Sterling matched the description and, after a brief struggle with the officers that lasted less than 90 seconds, he was shot six times by Salamoni. Officers found a loaded handgun in Sterling's pocket.
Bystanders captured part of the deadly interaction on video and shared the clips on social media, sparking days of protests in Baton Rouge and nationwide.
Lake was suspended for three days for his role in the incident, but has since returned to the police force. He has also appealed to the civil service board, which oversees the discipline process for Baton Rouge fire and police personnel and has the power to overturn decisions.
Lake's hearing is still scheduled for Jan. 17, but the board expects to also push that hearing date back until after the Salamoni hearing in order to minimize the testimony they need to hear.